Practice for perfection and with a bit of luck, you can reach the peak, Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller book Outliers had claimed.
But psychologists David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State University and Elizabeth J. Meinz of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have disagreed it strongly.
AdvertisementThey have claimed that inborn abilities and capacities mainly determine success of a person, though practice helps these skills to grow.
"We don't deny the importance of the knowledge and skill that accrue through practice. But, we think that for certain types of tasks, basic abilities and capacities-ones that are general, stable across time, and substantially heritable-play an important role in skilled performance," said Hambrick.
Such basic capacities are a component of talent, Hambrick and Meinz believe.
In one experiment Hambrick and Meinz tested 57 pianists with a wide range of deliberate practice under their belts, from 260 to more than 31,000 hours, to see how well they did on sight-reading-playing a piece from a score they'd never seen before.
Those who had practiced more did better. In fact, practice-even specific sight-reading practice-predicted nearly half of the differences in performance across the subjects.
But working memory capacity still had a statistically significant impact on performance.
In other words, regardless of amount of deliberate practice, working memory capacity still mattered for success in the task.
The psychologists surmised that the capacity influences how many notes a player can look ahead as she plays, an important factor in sight-reading.
"Even at the highest end, the higher the intellectual ability-and by extension, the higher the working memory capacity-the better," explained Hambrick.
"Some would consider this bad news. We'd all like to think that basic capacities and abilities are irrelevant-it's the egalitarian view of expertise.
"We're not saying that limitations can't be overcome. Still, no matter how hard you work, it may be what you're born with or develop very early in life that 'distinguishes the best from the rest,'" he added.
The findings appeared in the Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.